So I realise that this post may well push some buttons, as many of mine have been pushed recently which prompted me to write a little something about my streams of thought around this aging process…
The one absolute truth that we will all die, seems so fundamentally denied and suppressed in favour of our attachment to our temporal identity, role and image in life.
Our secular culture and the aging process is very different when seen through the lens of a man or woman but overall for both sexes, it is not a peaceful or beautiful process. When men age – it is seen one way, when women age is it seen another. It is not just the outward perceptions that differ, but the inner shame, judgement and fear which arises from this natural and universal process, which I find astounding.
We often sexualualize young girls – girls who sometimes haven’t even reached puberty as idealised versions of womanhood while ignoring and condemning those women who dare grow old. Youth, in all its ignorant potential is worshipped over the ripe fruits of age which fell from the tree of wisdom without any notice. I look around and I can no longer tell peoples ages and this is not because we are living ‘better’ lives but because we have ‘help’ in hiding.
Sadly this has overlapped on the very ancient and beautiful science of Yoga – which presents a frozen glossy image of perfection in the west. Teachers are sponsored, supported and shot to ‘superstardom’ if they are able to secure the most impressive asana with frozen poise and faces. I have heard one such teacher claim that Yoga is the cause for their flawless features and ‘great skin’ without a hint of gratitude given to their magic helper – Mr Costmetic Surgeon. Heaven forbid, if we were to allow ourselves to age naturally – it is like we have failed somehow. Either through the narrative of not having enough money to ‘fix the problem’, not being spiritual enough to have obtained that eternal Siddhi or that we don’t look after ourselves and are unhealthy ….
It worries me, that the very thing (Yoga) that is meant to help people find peace within themselves really is becoming only skin deep and amplifying the over identification with our temporal and disassociation with our essential selves. These teachers/role models who resort to such methods of manipulation with no contrition seem deeply insecure about the deepest reality of humanity…
… that we are ALL aging and dying and that it is this very fact which is the doorway leading onto a much bigger view of oneself and each other. The Spiritual Nature – the Eternal Self. If the teachers themselves can’t walk through that doorway – What can they possibly teach their students about such things? To hide? To fear? To cling to the unreal?
Thankfully the truth is that Yoga can slow the aging process (without any help from Mr Cosmetic Surgeon) but it will not stop it forever – this mortal coil was designed to only ever be temporal and will slowly unravel and unbind us to the tethers of this existence, freeing us back from where we came. This is the fact and gift of our journey – it is so short and each chapter could indeed be celebrated!
IMAGINE if we were to begin celebrating the changes – the grace in decay!
I know many older Swamis who are literally ageless – it is unclear how old they are, though they must be at least over 70 given their life stories and timeline of events. This timelessness is not just their physical form of beautiful, luminous skin with few wrinkles but their jewel like eyes that glimmer and sparkle with kindness, wit and generosity, along with vital energies that are steady and peaceful and minds which are crystalline in multiple directions simultaneously – oh and that transformational wisdom that pulsates when in their presence!
This, to me, is ultimately what makes a person beautiful and thankfully within traditional yogic circles – age and its well earned treasures are highly respected, appreciated and supported.
I personally will not be self shamed or shamed by others by my aging shell but celebrate the fact that I am still alive to experience this rare process, which many don’t get a chance to or are too afraid to honestly explore. I hope we can find a way to love ourselves a little more! As we really are – both within this present physical form but ultimately allowing this to be the signpost that it is, leading us to a much more beautiful and accurate reflection of who we are.
A SPIRIT EMBODIED